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Grey Sparrow Journal

Issue 30, July 31, 2017
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The Elephant in the Coffee Shop


by Frank Dahai


 


Mike and Lumina sat close together in a coffee shop,in a book shop, in acity known for earthquakes, women and bribery. Muzak coddled the air, piped forever through secret ducts. The tune, a version of 'Come Together', was strung out on cheap synth and rhythm. Just like, it seemed to Mike, far too many of the customers. They all spoke a language that he barely understood. Lumina spoke it too but more slowly than normal. She and Mike were shortly to be married so she was prepared to compromise. Mike was sure of that.
 
The lead swooped and plunged. It reminded him of that thing they play, just before the bass drum, whenever a clown falls over at the circus. He leaned in closer to his intended and said,
 
"I know this. This is Petito."
 
"Who is Petito?" she asked, her eyes widening.
 

"Petito was a tiny elephant who lived in Italy. Milan I think, or Turin. He could play tunes on his trunk by swaying it from side to side with the muscular force of his body. He played stadium concerts - very popular - thousands of fans. He was so small they had to pick him out on stage with vast searchlights, like the ones the Fascists used. This was the early eighties, so no one minded. His career was tragically cut short when an overenthusiastic fan stepped on him. Everyone attended his funeral and the Pope himself blessed the matchbox."
 
Lumina turned and looked over her shoulder.
 
"Stay here," she said, "I am going to look for a book about venom. And speak in Romanian, please."

"Some people," Mike continued, "said that Petito's death was no accident. He was a strange elephant in a strange land, after all. He had neither the diplomacy nor the tact needed to keep his enemies at bay. I think, in the end, he probably just wanted to be loved, poor thing."
 
But Mike was talking to himself now, so he ended it there. Petito, too, rotated into obscurity, his turn taken instead by a pair of Spanish guitarists named Frederico and Zane. Her Darjeeling arrived, along with crystal sugar and an egg-timer set in a block of glass. As he poured, he held the timer close to his eye and watched the blue grains slip and tumble through the only gap allowed to them.